Thursday, 6 January 2011


>wendy_444: LOL! OMG! FTW! GPS! :-)
>pervo has left the room

I used to drop into chatrooms when I first got online. I still do occasionally (every couple of months, for film music discussions) but I never got the appeal of them. Too many of the people in there were idiots; bad spelling always annoys me and much of it seemed to revolve around injokes between the regulars. I eventually gave up when some cretin deliberately and maliciously gave away the twist ending for The Sixth Sense. (If anyone knows any decent, civilised rooms for film fans, let me know.)

The essential difficulty with computer-based movies is that you just end up with scenes of people typing, and that just isn't cinematic. Even if it's Harrison Ford in something like Firewall, it's Harrison Ford typing. Whatever the plot, whatever the significance, whatever the consequences of what they're attempting to do, there's nothing that exciting about watching people in front of monitors click-clacking away on keyboards. Somehow you have to provide some kind of visualisation of what's going on within the computer. In Tron (and less successfully its shiny new sequel) the whole cyberworld is rendered as a complete reality with games, nightclubs and a fully functional infrastructure.

But how to represent the semi-reality of a Chatroom? The answer is to depict it as a room - a simple room with a few plastic chairs in it, off an endless corridor full of other "rooms" in which the online personae meet and argue, flirt and persecute. (Significantly, Chatroom is based on a theatrical stage play.) Embittered sociopath William sets up a chatroom called "Chelsea Teens" which attracts a quartet of lonely, troubled, misunderstood and unhappy people: basically fodder for William to manipulate and crush: specifically the painfully shy Jim, depressed ever since his father's disappearance and so easy to push towards suicide. But as they realise what William really is, how can the others stop him when they've never met in real life?

Chatroom is actually a British film, despite the Japanese director Hideo Nakata and it's fair to say this is nowhere near as good as the original Dark Water or the original Ringu (or even his own sequel to the American remake). And despite Nakata's track record, this isn't actually a horror film - it's a psychological drama/thriller. It's had some absolutely terrible reviews but in all truth I quite enjoyed it: not a great movie but better than I'd expected and certainly better than the reviews indicated. Undoubtedly there are things massively wrong with it: chunks of William's real-life motivations aren't entirely clear (although a key bit of backstory might have been revealed early on, while I was outside looking for someone to get the film projected in something approaching focus) and some of the other material is frankly very shaky, specifically one character having a questionable interest in an eleven-year-old girl. Despite this, which I simply didn't buy for a moment, its depiction of cyberbullying and anonymous, online persecution is quite chilling. Not a complete success, but not a complete failure either.


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